Project: ASOS Shopping App 2013

My Responsibilities: iPhone App UX Optimisation, iPad App UX Design

In my early months at ASOS we were working with a service provider who provided most of the infrastructure for the ASOS mobile offering. The mobile website by the way of a site scrape/transcode.

The service provider was engaged to build a new version of the ASOS shopping app, as it was felt their expertise on mobile across many retailers and other companies should be valuable.

It was clear that mobile, apps and web, were where the traffic was heading. Our figures showed us a clear trend in that regard. The ASOS iOS apps had been designed a few years previously and were getting a little tired. There were elements of the layout and navigation that weren't quite as extensible as we wanted them to be.

ASOS App circa 2011

We approached the project as a joint team: half ASOS, half service provider.

I was part of the team working through various ideas for how the new app should operate. Several times, we were in a room with seven or eight designers who had all been given a mandate to add their input, and add value. As a process, this was less than optimal. Debates became unproductive, and it wasn't entirely clear who was leading the design process.

After a few weeks of this, the design delivery was brought solely in-house. We decided that even though the service provider's intentions were honourable in dedicating design resource to the project, it made more sense to work as a small team, one UX Designer, one UI Designer, who were knitted more closely into the brand.

As the UX Designer on this project, I pieced together what had been created by our collective teams into something that was more coherent. We'd had several discussions around gestures and layering, and that was my first task: decide what elements sit on a given level. We had certain screens acting as pages, and others acting as modal views.

I also pared back some of the ideas around gestural usage. I had a strong belief (and still do) that if an operating system provider doesn't make a gesture a default behaviour, and there isn't an on-screen prompt, then the user will not "just figure it out". As intuitive as mobile interfaces are, they aren't perfect.

ne area where we did decide to maintain an element of gestural behaviour was in accessing My Account.

As our menu didn't really allow for additional elements (it was already pretty long) we had to out these items somewhere else. We decided to hide them in a drawer. To see if this would work, we performed some guerilla user testing around the office. Thankfully at ASOS, there are so many people of mixed technical ability, and most fit into our customer demographic, that it seemed like a good, free way to test a more contentious part of the app.

There were elements of minesweeping along the header when looking for account, most people going to the top right first without any other visual indicator. Once they learned that the ASOS icon was how they accessed this menu, they remembered it. I still felt this may have had an element of risk, but the youthful customer base of ASOS are a lot more forgiving than most, and we've never received any complaints to this day about the feature.

With some tight deadlines (a month to produce the iPad version, for example) we designed an app that is still used by millions of customers today. While there were imperfections in the process and delivery, this was regarded as a very successful project throughout the business and was the stepping stone for bringing all mobile design and implementation in-house.

The business trusted us to deliver, and that was brilliant to see.